In view of its relation to the objects of the senses, the consciousness of the object can be distinguished from self-consciousness; but, in the case of the religious object, consciousness and self-consciousness directly coincide. A sensuous object exists apart from man, but the religious object exists within him – it is itself an inner, intimate object, indeed, the closest object, and hence an object which forsakes him as little as his self-consciousness or conscience. “God,” says. Augustine, for example, “is nearer, more closely related to us and therefore more easily known by us than sensuous and physical things.”  Strictly speaking, the object of the, senses is in itself indifferent, having no relevance to our disposition and judgment. But the object of religion is a distinguished object – the most excellent, the first, the highest being. It essentially presupposes a critical judgment – the discrimination between the divine and the non-divine, between that which is worthy of adoration and that which is not.  it is in this context, therefore, that the following statement is unconditionally true: The object of man is nothing else than his objective being itself. As man thinks, as is his understanding of things, so is his God; so much worth as a man has, so much and no more has his God. The consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of man; the knowledge of God is the self-knowledge of man. Man’s notion of himself is his notion of God, just as his notion of God is his notion of himself – the two are identical. What is God to man, that is man’s own spirit, man’s own soul; what is man’s spirit, soul, and heart – that is his God. God is the manifestation of man’s inner nature, his expressed self; religion is the solemn unveiling of man’s hidden treasures, the avowal of his innermost thoughts, the open confession of the secrets of his love.
But if religion, i.e., the consciousness of God, is characterised as the self-consciousness of man, this does not mean that the religious man is directly aware that his consciousness of God is his self-consciousness, for it is precisely the absence of such an awareness that is responsible for the peculiar nature of religion. Hence, in order to eliminate this misunderstanding, it would be better to say that religion is the first, but indirect, self-consciousness of man. That is why religion precedes philosophy everywhere, in the history of mankind as well as in the history of the individual. Man transposes his essential being outside himself before he finds it within himself. His own being becomes the object of his thought first as another being. Religion is the essential being of man in his infancy; but the child sees his essential being, namely, man outside himself, as a child; a man is object to himself as another man. Hence, the